Headteachers have published a blueprint for a properly-funded plan to help pupils recover from the pandemic amid fears the Government is dragging its feet.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has promised that “no child will be left behind” as a result of the Covid disruption – but has yet to publish his own recovery plan for schools.
School leaders’ union NAHT has warned that helping children who have lost learning “cannot happen on the cheap” as they heap pressure on ministers to fund the programme properly.
In a separate report, MPs said the Department for Education had “no plan” and was “unprepared” for the pandemic which caused “damage” to children.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the DfE lacked any interest in learning the lessons of the pandemic to ensure its catch-up offer was sufficient to redress the damage.
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NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “Schools have gone to incredible lengths in order to protect and care for pupils in the most unimaginably challenging of times.
“There is no doubt that this vital work helped to shield large numbers of children from the worst effects of the pandemic.
“While the Government has been deliberating, school staff have already been quietly, but determinedly, getting on with the crucial task of supporting pupils. In fact, this work never stopped.”
He added: “The Government has promised that the recovery effort will see ‘no child will be left behind’. That is the right approach. But it is also a big promise.
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“The only way the Government keeps that promise is by fully backing the recovery effort with ambitious funding too.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that in today’s unsettled world this country’s long term future depends on the young people in school and college now.
“We have to give them everything we can to help them make a better fist of it than we have. A failure to invest in education is a failure to invest in the nation’s future.”
The NAHT’s 7-point plan calls on the Government to prioritise the early years; improve support for mental health and wellbeing and invest in the teaching profession.
It also wants ministers to provide targeted academic support for pupils who need it; extra-curricular provision and invest in extra-curricular providers; invest in school technology and remove unnecessary burdens and distractions.
The Department for Education has made £1.7bn of catch-up funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption due to school and college closures during Covid.
But as of February only 44% of children receiving tuition were from the poorest families, which raises questions over whether the scheme will reach pupils who need it most.
The Government’s education recovery tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, is considering long-term proposals to address the impact of Covid on children.
Ministers have confirmed a change to the summer holidays and longer school days are being looked at as part of the plan.
A DfE spokesman said: “We are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils have the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible – and we have appointed Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner to advise on this work.
“As part of this we have already invested £1.7 billion in ambitious catch-up activity, including £18m for children’s early language development. We also recently announced £79m to boost mental health support for children and young people.”